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Closed nuclear fuel cycle central to India's vision of energy security: Anil Kakodkar

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EXPLAINING THE OBJECTIVES: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar addressing the IAEA conference in Vienna on Wednesday.
EXPLAINING THE OBJECTIVES: Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar addressing the IAEA conference in Vienna on Wednesday.

Special Correspondent

Crucial for implementation of its nuclear power programme

  • Construction of 500 MWe PFBR on schedule
  • Reprocessing facility at Kalpakkam by 2012

    CHENNAI: "India considers a closed nuclear fuel cycle of crucial importance for implementation of its three-stage nuclear power programme" with its long-term objective of tapping vast energy available in thorium resources in India, according to Anil Kakodkar, Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission.

    "This is central to India's vision of energy security and the Government [of India] is committed to its full realisation through the development and deployment of technologies pertaining to all aspects of a closed nuclear fuel cycle," he said in his speech at the 50th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at Vienna on Wednesday.

    (Know-how of closed nuclear fuel cycle implies that a country has mastered the technology of reprocessing and re-making the spent fuel from its nuclear power reactors. India's three-stage nuclear electricity programme is: building Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRS) using natural uranium as fuel; building Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) using plutonium and depleted uranium from the PHWRs; and construction of reactors using the abundant thorium found in India.)

    Dr. Kakodkar, leading the Indian delegation to Vienna, said the construction of a 500 MWe Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam, Tamil Nadu, was on schedule and expected to be commissioned by 2010. "In keeping with our philosophy of efficient utilisation of a fuel material by closing the fuel cycle, we have embarked on the design and construction" of a re-processing and re-making facility at Kalpakkam to cater to the PFBR. This facility would be commissioned by 2012.

    He described thorium utilisation as "the long-term core objective of the Indian nuclear power programme for providing energy independence on a sustainable basis." So, the third stage of the programme was based on thorium-uranium-233 cycle. India was actively engaged in developing a 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR), which would use thorium-uranium-233 as fuel. A critical facility to validate the physics design of the AHWR would become functional this year.

    Out of the existing fleet of 443 nuclear power reactors in the world, less than half were under IAEA safeguards. Even in this scenario and with a slow growth of nuclear power in the last two decades, a large fraction of the human and financial resources available to the IAEA had to be used to implement the safeguards.

    With an anticipated rapid growth in demand for nuclear power, especially in developing countries, "cost-effective safeguards are essential so that the safeguard system does not by itself become a hindrance to the development of nuclear power while at the same time providing the necessary assurances in terms of verification," Dr. Kakodkar said. India, therefore, felt it necessary to look for institutional and technological solutions with increased resistance to proliferation along with an assured fuel supply.

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